Case For A Special Status For Lagos —Claver Opara


Honestly, I don’t know what will make it compelling for any Nigerian to argue against the strident demand for a special status for Lagos. I acknowledge that politics, of the Nigerian hue, excels in attacking an issue to satisfy primitive indefinable interests but then I believe that it takes an acute sense of sadism to speak against the granting of a special status to Lagos. Lagos is no ordinary Nigerian state. It is unique. It is exciting and as attractive as it can also repeal. Depending on how one sees it, Lagos means many things for many people. For some, it is the ultimate land of opportunity and to others; it is a microcosm of the diversities Nigeria is noted for. To another group, it is an urban nightmare while to yet another group; it is such an attractive lollipop that can never be resisted!

Lagos holds the greatest attraction to Nigeria’s poor, rich, educated, non educated, youths and elderly. It carved this enviable niche when it served as the country’s administrative capital. With its strategic location, it was able to combine this with its role as the hub of land, air, rail and sea transportation to serve as the gateway to the nation. Opportunities flowed with these attracting qualities and soon, it became a melting point where all strata and all classes of Nigerians berthed. Soon, its borders overflowed with Nigerians, coming from all corners of the country, with lofty dreams to make something out of this land of limitless opportunities.

Because it was the administrative and commercial capital, it was able to meet these diverse challenges as attention was paid, at least in the limited Nigerian form, to its needs and challenges. Industry and civil service achieved an admirable interface to tackle the ravenous expectations of Lagosians, drawn from all states, tongues and creeds of Nigeria and by this, Lagos not only played the important but critical role as the country’s oasis of hope for the teeming, migrants to the city.

As soon as the movement of the administrative capital commenced, Lagos was abandoned. As government, with all its profligate accoutrements, departed for Abuja, the federal government abandoned Lagos to its fate. Yes, the federal government moved but the industrial and commercial hub did not migrate because it sourced life from the strategic placement of Lagos. The people did not move too. In fact, more people poured into Lagos and a fierce competition for space and opportunities ensued. The city expanded and was forced to develop with the remnant of the infrastructures left behind by the departing federal government. With the renewed massive influx into Lagos, each of the infrastructures creaked and groaned under excess weight. Be it in the roads, bridges, water supply, electricity supply, job market, environment, Medicare, education, transportation, etc, all suffered on the weight exerted by migrating Nigerians who still see Lagos as the last port of call in their quest for opportunities.

Today, Lagos has grown from a population base of 7 million when the seat of federal government was transferred to Abuja to a sprawling metropolis of nearly 20 million inhabitants. Curiously, it is sustaining this population on the same infrastructure base left behind by the departing government. Alarmingly, this infrastructure base has so depreciated that real doubts are raised about its survival in the next few years. And this is a city that is projected to be the world’s largest by 2025! Thank God, Lagos has had its fair share of proactive regimes, which is why the state is still functioning today and the Fashola government embodies the hope for the survival of Lagos, to the admiration of Lagosians.

Lagos is overburdened. It is overcrowded and the fight for space is becoming enervating. The population keeps surging and the needs and demands take similar upsurge. It needs a critical attention and such attention, in a federation as ours, cannot continue to be left in the hands of the state government. In a system where the bulk of resources that service a state are drawn from the monthly resource distribution channel called revenue allocation, it is becoming clearly obtuse, almost a sin, to continue expecting that Lagos will function with the pittance it gets from this monthly ritual. Thank God, it draws from taxes and rates from its huge industrial base but there is a limit this can go in addressing the multifarious problems of a state that houses one out or every seven Nigerians; a state where every Nigerian kindred has a representative. Lagos remains the state that hosts more than 75 per cent of Nigerian educated youths, more than 70 per cent of the country’s intelligentsia, more than 75 per cent of the country’s critical industrial and commercial hub so its importance to Nigeria, as a nation cannot be overemphasized.

It is curious when you see some people who have not lived up to five per cent of their lives outside Lagos, taking up arms against such demands as special federal attention to the needs of Lagos, all in the name of vacuous politics and because, as they quip, they are not from Lagos. It is strange when people who have properties littered all over Lagos argue against any effort to grant more resources to Lagos. It is curious when you see Nigerians whose children do not know of any other state outside Lagos, make outlandish cases against paying greater attention to Lagos.

I had my tertiary education in Lagos and had lived in Lagos ever since then and I guess I have made my humble contribution to the growth of Lagos. I feel the pulse and the heartbeat of Lagos and it thumps on the diverse shades and people that live there. I had witnessed its high and low sides. Strictly speaking, Lagos was built by all Nigerians. It draws its lifeblood from all Nigerians. It gets its enviable strength and its regrettable weaknesses from all Nigerians. It sustains on the strength given to it from all Nigerians. Its survival depends on all Nigerians and such survival holds perhaps the most potent hope for the survival of Nigeria. I make a case for a Special Status for Lagos as the goose that lays the golden egg for the nation’s economy. I make a case for an affirmative action that binds the federal, state, and local governments with the private sector for the infrastructure needs of Lagos, especially on transportation, electricity, housing, roads, rails and other critical sectors to enable it play its natural role as the driver of Nigeria’s growth and I insist that such special attention is without convincing doubt.

•Oparah wrote from Lagos.

Load more